06 Mar The American’s Guide to British Food
It’s common knowledge that British food often gets a bad rap. It’s bland. It’s boiled. It lacks diversity. Well guess what, Uncle Sam, the same could be said about the All-American hot dog! And people freaking love hot dogs.
Of course this is an outdated and incorrect observation of British grub. Similarly to the U.S., the U.K. is a melting pot for many different cultures, customs and, yes, cuisine. Curry and stir-fry are two of the most popular dishes in England, for Queen’s sake!
Bottom line, English food needs better PR in order to change this passe notion. And The Queens Head is here to do just that — one order at a time. We Americans need a better understanding of the history behind some of England’s signature dishes in order to truly appreciate how brilliant they actually are.
So here we present to you: The American’s Guide to British Food
Beans on Toast
When rationing was still in practice after World War II, a can of beans and a loaf of bread was a relatively inexpensive and practical grocery purchase. Twentieth century snackers would toast up some bread, spread some baked beans on it and have a cheap, filling and nutritious meal that they could whip up quickly. Modern Beans on Toast interpretations use different varieties of beans, cheeses and vegetables. For brunch, we serve Beans on Toast with white cheddar, English sausage and scrambled eggs. It’s the same historically comforting dish — just better.
In the age of CrossFit, protein supplements and cashew milk, the Chip Butty is downright offensive to many Americans. However, take those same Americans after 4 or 5 pints (or after a night filled with them) and the Chip Butty becomes the Chip Buddy. (See what we did there?) The Chip Butty is essentially a french fry sandwich. Traditionally made with white bread or rolls — which are buttered heavily; hence the “butty” slang — and then stuffed with chips (fries). Sometimes the chips are topped with ketchup, vinegar or brown sauce. We elevate this historically working class meal with the addition of Cherrywood bacon, a fried egg, English chips, red cabbage slaw and serve it on toasted ciabatta bread.
Bubble and Squeak
Another ration-based adaptation, the original mid-eighteenth century recipe replaced beef with potatoes around WWII. Economic times were tough, so people made the very most of what they had. Which, oftentimes, was leftover vegetables and potatoes. Mashed potatoes were combined with cabbage, carrots and whatever other veggies people had on hand and made into patties. These patties were then typically fried in animal fat (like lard). The “bubble and squeak” moniker comes from the noise that the dish makes in the pan as it cooks: the densely packed veggies release pressure through the gaps in the potato. Our chef keeps it pretty traditional when it comes to this dish.
Bangers and Mash
As you’ve gathered by now, a common theme among what we now consider traditional British fare was the relationship it had to the second World War. In the 1920s, when rationing of meat was commonplace, sausages were often made with high water content and were of poor quality. And when cooked, these second-rate sausages were likely to explode in the pan under high heat. Because of this, they became colloquially known as “bangers.” Their culinary counterpart, Mash, is what one may assume: mashed potatoes. The complete dish may have been (and is still often) served with onion gravy and peas. We serve an elevated version with English pork sausage, mashed potatoes and port shallot reduction.
Classic English food — and more specifically pub meals — may have been created out of necessity, but today’s interpretations of these dishes take ingredients and flavors to a whole new level. And even though we Americans are addicted to our modern luxuries, we also enjoy scouring antique shops and thrift stores for vintage treasures. Because vintage is cool. And classic is classic for a reason.
Stop in to The Queens Head for some classic English fare with a modern flair and discover why these meals have stood the test of time.